In the biblical view, popular religion most often remonstrates the allegiance of a people to the ‘powers’ of a second kingdom — one of darkness, bondage, deceit, non-fulfillment and fear. In God’s self-manifestation, both as the covenant God of the OT, and more fully as the Saviour of mankind in the NT, the focus of encounter between the kingdoms of light and darkness frequently takes the form of a battle between the ‘powers’.
In the OT, the essence of the problem is often pointed in terms of confrontation – is Elijah’s God greater than the Canaanite baals?
Similarly, in the NT, the clash of the kingdoms often finds focus in spiritual warfare. Jesus was sending Paul to Jews and Gentiles to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.
A significant factor in such power encounters, at least as they are documented in the Bible, is that the power for good belongs to a sovereign, holy God. Let no ambassador or soldier usurp the glory that belongs only to Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ own ministry of reconciliation begins with an announcement of the coming of the kingdom of God. After Jesus’ ascension, the kingdom of God is announced by the apostles, is master-directed by the Holy Spirit, and is headed from glory by the King of kings Himself.
The biblical context for mission, therefore, is one of two kingdoms. A biblically informed theology of mission has to face the question of the kingdom of God and the alternative kingdom.
Perhaps it is partly due to an idolatrous, rationalistic spirit from the kingdom of darkness at work among Western believers that many missionaries to Muslims are blind to the real issues at stake. It is a question of preaching the gospel with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction, as well as with words.
The calling of the church immersed in or skirting at the edges of a vast sea of over a billion Muslim souls is that a will might be done and a kingdom come on earth. According to Paul, the model fellowship in Thessalonica resulted because under God’s sovereign working, the gospel came to the people not simply with words.
Our look at popular Islam pushes the issue of kingdom-power very much to the forefront. In popular Islam there is almost complete allegiance to the kingdom of darkness in the search for help.
At the same time, however, the very view of reality that gives rise to the beliefs and practices of ordinary Muslims is in many respects far closer to the biblical one than to the missionary’s own mechanistic, scientistic worldview! Will this ensuing activity be one of spiritual power encounter or Western education?
For too long, it would seem, in Christian witness among Muslims, there has been no power encounter because there have been no power bearers. If the essence of that introduction to Christ occurs in their experience, perhaps there is a chance for Muslims to bypass the usual communication problems in learning about Jesus.
Equally in the Christian discipling of Muslims, it is wise to bear in mind the possibility that even the most Westernised Muslim may have been involved at some stage of his or her life in the world of folk Islam. The discipling of Muslims may well need a dealing with the occult powers with which they have somehow become involved.
It is sobering to not the discipling process as it evolved in the church in Ephesus. Books of these formulas, it seems, were burned as the believers got their lives sorted out.
Through a process of power encounter, Muslims may be helped to develop a relationship with Jesus and have Him sort their lives out. He is divine; He bears in His body the marks of the cross, He is the Son of God and Saviour.
There consequently needs to be a major emphasis on the teaching of the world among those Muslims whose relationship with Jesus Christ begins in power encounter. Grounding in the faith anchoring of experience in biblical truth, will be crucial for new believers in Christ who come to faith via the process of power encounter.
The fact that official Islam hosts folk-Islamic beliefs and practices offers the possibility that something of the relevance of power encounter for ordinary Muslims might be proponents of the ideal form of the faith.
Acts 1:3; 19:13-16; 26:18; Mark 1:15; 5:1-13; Matthew 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:5